The first look at this season's Blue Devils gave fans a lot to look forward to and a few new names to learn.
The Blue Devils kicked off their 2014-2015 campaign Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium with their annual Blue-White scrimmage. Unsurprisingly, Duke had a drastically different look after losing four of five starters from last season.
In a literal sense, this year’s team is significantly taller—nine of the 12 players on the roster are six feet or taller. The team is also much younger and less experienced than recent squads. But it was the same younger, inexperienced players that were the standouts in Sunday's scrimmage.
“I just liked the things I saw. Because of our diversity, we have more options. There is a tremendous value to that,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “The team is forcing me to continue to cultivate ideas and work in new ways.”
The game featured four 10-minute periods involving different combinations of Duke players for each side in each period. The scrimmage started off relatively slow, with just four points scored in the first three and a half minutes. Redshirt freshman and Kentucky native Rebecca Greenwell—playing for the blue team—drained three 3-pointers in a five-minute period to spark some life into both sides. Freshman Azura Stevens responded with 10 points of her own, and the first period ended in a 14-14 draw.
The second period was highlighted by senior Ka’lia Johnson’s nine points and three offensive rebounds for the blue team. The first half closed relatively uneventfully with a score of 29-21 in favor of the blue team.
“The first half was terrible relative to ball pressure. It was like we were out there just having fun or something,” McCallie said. “The second half was much more gritty, and [more like] what you would see for 40 minutes from us.”
The drive from both teams picked up significantly going into the third period. Senior and three-time All-American Elizabeth Williams, who was surprisingly quiet for the first half of the scrimmage, finally began to make an impact for the blue team with four points, two rebounds and, as is her signature, two blocked shots. Utah native and junior transfer Mercedes Riggs provided energy and opportunities from the point guard position to keep the white team in the game.
The fourth quarter featured an exchange of 3-pointers from Greenwell, Johnson, Riggs and freshman guard Sierra Calhoun. The scrimmage culminated in a 55-43 win for the blue team.
The level of play from the incoming players was much more important than the score itself when it came to this event. Of the six Blue Devils who saw their first action on Coach K Court Sunday, three of them—Greenwell, Riggs, and Stevens—scored in double digits.
Greenwell's first appearance in Cameron Indoor Stadium was another step forward in the redshirt freshman's recovery after she was forced to redshirt due to a season-ending knee injury she sustained before the season began last year. Greenwell did not disappoint, going 6-of-10 from long range. Her ball-handling skills and court vision were both remarkably fine-tuned for a player who is not known to play the point guard position.
“It’s an amazing feeling to finally get out there, even though it wasn’t a real game,” Greenwell said. “It’s been a long time coming so I’m just excited to finally get off the bench, put my jersey on, and get out there for the first time.”
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